How employers can use the Graduate visa route to tackle skills shortages in the UK
Jul 25, 2023
On 17 July 2023, the UK Government published a statement with details of all the changes they are making to the immigration rules. This statement is called a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 1496.
Some of the major changes impact the ability of those on Student Visas to ‘switch’ into a number of different work routes (including the Skilled Worker route). This means students who plan to switch to the Skilled Worker visa route, per our article on Dec 06, 2022, will have to wait until they have completed their courses.
In the meantime, the provisions concerning the Graduate Route visa and the ability to switch from it to the Skilled Worker visa, however, remain unchanged. This is a fantastic opportunity for:
- International students who want to take their next steps into employment in the UK.
- UK companies that are recruiting and building strategic teams of recent graduates
Below is a thorough analysis of the most relevant immigration routes for graduates and considerations for businesses to help revamp their recruitment strategy to attract and retain recent graduates.
The Graduate Route Visa
The Graduate Route is unsponsored, which means student visa holders can use the time after graduation to work or look for work at any skill level. You will have the flexibility to gain work experience, undertake an internship, or work as a freelancer in the UK.
Applicants will not be required to show funds or finance, nor will they need to demonstrate any English language ability, as they will have already satisfied this requirement by successfully completing their degree or other relevant qualification at a UK university.
Equally, an employer does not need to be a UK visa sponsor or offer the graduate a job meeting certain skills or minimum salary requirements.
Graduate Route Visa Application
You can apply for a Graduate visa if all the following are true:
- you’re in the UK
- your current visa is a Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
- you studied a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or other eligible course for a minimum period of time with your Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
- your higher education provider (such as your university or college) has told the Home Office your course completion date.
Visa application fee
When you apply for a Graduate visa, you’ll need to:
- pay the £715 application fee, regardless of whether you are applying under either the two or three-year graduate immigration route.
- pay the immigration healthcare surcharge as part of their application – this is usually £624 for each year you’ll be in the UK. This means that in addition to the application fee, the applicant will be liable to pay £1,248 for a 2-year graduate visa and £1,872 for a 3-year visa.
Employers do not have to pay any costs towards the graduate visa unless they choose to make a contribution to cover the application costs for their new hire.
Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity, and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within eight weeks. You can stay in the UK while you wait for a decision.
Once you have found suitable employment in the UK, you’ll have the chance to switch to a skilled work route and remain in the UK after your two or three years have come to an end.
Skilled Worker Visa
For many international students studying in the UK, this is a faster and more affordable route to a work permit in the UK. The Skilled Worker visa is a long-term employment visa that allows applicants to remain and work in the UK for up to five years. This visa, which replaced the previous Tier 2 (general) work visa, was redesigned to allow for a lower threshold of salary threshold and to remove the resident labour market test. The skilled worker visa is valid for up to five years. Applicants can decide whether they wish to extend their visa or apply for indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship.
If you currently employ promising workers under the UK’s graduate visa route, their permission to work in the UK will be time-limited. Planning ahead in advance of the expiry of their period of leave will ensure that you know what immigration requirements will need to be met if you wish to retain them as employees by sponsoring them under the skilled worker route. This way, you can avoid immigration issues and help to ensure you don’t lose valuable and established talent from within your workforce.
Below is a guide relating to switching from the graduate route to a skilled worker visa, including the procedural and eligibility criteria for both employers and graduate applicants.
Skilled Worker Visa Application
You must meet the following requirements:
- your job offer meets the eligibility requirements
- you can speak, read, write, and understand English
- Proof of funds of at least £1,270 held for a 28-day period although, as their UK sponsor, employers can certify they can maintain and accommodate the applicant for at least that sum for the first month of their employment in their new job role.
- Proving your identity and providing supporting documents. How you do this depends on where you’re from and the type of passport you have. You’ll either:
- give your fingerprints and a photograph (biometric information) at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point – this is to get a biometric residence permit
- use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document
Visa application fee
When you apply for a Skilled Worker visa, you’ll need to have enough money to:
- pay the application fee – the standard fee ranges from £625 to £1,423, depending on your circumstances
- pay the immigration healthcare surcharge – this is usually £624 per year
You’ll pay a lower application fee if your job is on the shortage occupation list.
Apply to switch to the Skilled Worker route
You must apply online before your current visa expires. Once you’ve started your application, you can save your form and complete it later.
You’ll usually get a decision within eight weeks of your application date. You’ll be contacted if your application will take longer, for example, because:
- your supporting documents need to be verified
- you need to attend an interview
- of your personal circumstances, for example, if you have a criminal conviction
You must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man until you get a decision. Your application will be withdrawn if you do.
You may be able to pay to get a faster decision – you’ll be told if you can when you apply.
Considerations For Employers
- Even though UK employers don’t need a skilled worker sponsor licence to hire a graduate visa holder, they must have permission to sponsor a migrant under the skilled worker route. This means that if you’re not currently approved to recruit a foreign national to work in the UK in a specific job role within an eligible skilled occupation, you’ll need to apply for a relevant licence.
- To apply for permission to become a skilled worker visa sponsor, you’ll need to register your details with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), complete an online application form, and pay the relevant fee. You’ll need to appoint an authorising officer to manage your application, typically the most senior person in your business responsible for the recruitment of overseas nationals.
For assistance with switching from a Graduate Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa, please speak to our immigration experts at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are specialists with substantial experience and recognised expertise in advising employers on the UK sponsorship rules and retaining international talent through the Skilled Worker visa.